To the editor of the Ottawa Citizen,
Canadians should not be surprised that the majority of privately sponsored refuges are settled by churches. They are motivated by the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger and help those in need of protection. Local congregations make wonderful welcoming communities: they are intergenerational, often intercultural, are comprised of people from different socio-economic backgrounds and have in their midst a variety of skills and expertise; all wrapped up in a community that engenders generosity and volunteerism.
Canadian Churches have a long history of settling refugees; churches from across the theological spectrum whose members vote across the political spectrum.
Earlier this year 14 evangelical denominations committed to promote the need of refugees from Syria and Iraq amongst their 4,000 congregations. They are open to settling whoever is in need, whether Christian, Muslim or minority faith communities. For example the church-based Mennonite Central Committee has helped to settle both Christian and Muslim refugees.
The challenge of the private sponsorship system is identifying prospective refugees; most are located through direct connections whether family or church. This is the way the majority of refuges are settled in Canada. Any disproportion between Muslim and other refugees settled by churches is not due to bias but as a result of established connections.
Churches in Canada stand ready to settle whomever is in need of protection.
Bruce J. Clemenger, President,
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada